PPA ends convenience of Philly parking tickets, citing ‘internet fraud’

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In many US cities, including 5 of the 10 largest, you can pay a parking ticket online by searching for it with your license plate number. But you can’t do that in Philadelphia – at least not anymore.

The Philadelphia Parking Authority has provided this option for the past two years, but it turns out the convenience was only a temporary measure to help people “in unique situations created by the pandemic,” according to the carrier. floor of the PPA, Marty O’Rourke. There are no plans to bring him back, he said.

This adds extra steps for some residents trying to keep up to date with their violations.

After Lauren Vidas forgot to renew her residential parking permit, she found a ticket on her windshield for staying too long in one spot. She threw him in her car, then took a planned trip out of town. When she came back, she couldn’t find the ticket anywhere.

She went to the Philadelphia Parking Authority’s online portal to make the payment – but because she didn’t have the physical ticket, she couldn’t enter the ticket number, and the option to search for it by plate number license plate was missing. She ended up going to the PPA office to pay the fine in person and avoid further charges.

“Your license plate number, you know,” Vidas said. “But if you lose that little piece of paper…it makes it really hard to give money to the city.”

For Vidas, it wasn’t a big deal. “I needed to get my residential parking permit renewed, so I kind of made a day of it and went to the Reading Terminal Market and did some shopping, so that was fine,” she said.

But it left her wondering why the feature was gone.

Although O’Rourke attributed the search function to pandemic adjustments, several people noted on Twitter they remember using the feature before COVID. O’Rourke did not say whether it was possible to search for a violation by license plate alone at any time before the pandemic.

Ultimately, the PPA removed the feature last September. The portal currently requires a ticket number, start number, notice number, or payment plan number to make a payment.

The agency made the switch for privacy and security reasons, according to spokesperson O’Rourke.

“[A]anyone could walk into a license plate and see all the tickets issued to that plate,” O’Rourke said, “and that’s not public information. We have stopped this process so that we can verify that the person requesting the information is the registered owner. »

There was also at one point a third-party payment site, by O’Rourke, which took advantage of the open license plate search and confused people trying to pay their fines.

A now inactive Twitter bot called @HowsMyDrivingPA also took advantage of the search to exhibit vehicles with unpaid tickets. Inspired by a New York City Account doing the same, the account would respond by listing outstanding parking violations whenever someone tweeted a license plate number and tagged the bot.

After the PPA dropped the search-by-plate feature and added a CAPTCHA security field last fall, the bot stopped working, according to account creator Aaron Bauman, a software engineer from Philadelphia.

“PPA is extremely opaque in its operations, and that’s a generous valuation,” Bauman told Billy Penn. “It is unfortunate that they feel the need to prevent the publication of this data, when municipalities like NYC and DC make it available…it is an important service to provide any transparency in their operations.

It is still possible to pay the fine associated with a lost ticket before being hit with a late fee, but this requires more patience than before.

If you don’t pay or dispute a parking ticket within 15 days, the PPA gets your name and address from the DMV, according to O’Rourke. Once the PPA receives this information, it sends a “notice of violation” via US mail. After that, you have 10 days before you receive a follow-up notice in the mail with a late fee. Each of these notices has its own number, which can be entered to pay for the ticket online.

There are a few other potential options for refunding a lost ticket. You can call 1-888-591-3636, DM the PPA on Facebook or Twitter, or email [email protected] (These options are only available Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. for social media or email, and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. for phone.)

Visiting the PPA Parking Violations Branch in person — like Vidas did — works, too. (It’s open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.)

When Vidas went to pay for her ticket in person, the other person behind her in line was there for the same reason, she said, and a staff member told her it was common lately.

It is unclear whether there has been an increase in in-person visits since the license plate search feature was removed from the PPA website last fall, as the agency does not track such information, according to spokesman O’Rourke.

Either way, it doesn’t look like the convenience feature will return to Philadelphia anytime soon, even with CAPTCHA enabled.

“Due to the high volume of internet fraud the world is experiencing,” O’Rourke said, “the authority believes it is in the customer’s interest to keep these protocols in place.”

About Geraldine Higgins

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